It’s not too often that I get up on a mommy platform. But my departure from Heathrow was nearly enough to turn me into a crusader for life. And I wasn’t going to say anything except for change doesn’t come from letting things slide.
I think that there are lots of ways to feed your child, and while I happen to have an opinion on what works best for me and why, I totally get that different combinations work for different moms for different reasons. And I think one of the luxuries of modern times is being able to choose the right way for you, and having people respect that within reasonable realms.
One of the other luxuries of modern times is being able to pump – in my case, first it was because feeding wasn’t working any other way. And now it’s because I work. Now, as well all know, liquids are a no-no for plane rides, apart from a sample shampoo and your toothpaste neatly packaged in a small ziploc. But there has always been an exception for medications and baby food, including milk. For those traveling in the US, the guidance from TSA has been:
Medications, baby formula and food, breast milk, and juice are allowed in reasonable quantities exceeding 3.4 ounces (100ml) and are not required to be in the zip-top bag. Officers. may ask travelers to open these items to conduct additional screening and passengers should declare them for inspection at the checkpoint.
For the UK, it reads per the Heathrow Airport website:
Baby food or baby milk: Please carry only what you need for the flight. You may be asked to open the containers and taste the contents.
And you’re going to be blown away by what happens next. Wanting to be a good traveler, I approach security, “declaring” my milk stash and showing the officers. I had it packaged in freezer bags of 150 mL, and all separated out in a cooler container. Naturally a container full of breast milk caused a bit of a stir and lots of nastiness ensued, with two gentlemen officials refusing to let me pass. Here’s how it went down.
Tack #1: “You can’t have liquids over 100 mL”. I explain this is baby milk and it doesn’t apply – nonetheless, I offer to repackage it into quantities of 100 mL in additional bags and I’m told I’m not allowed.
Tack #2: “You’re not allowed to travel with breast milk if you don’t actually have a baby with you.” Also false – it doesn’t specify that in any of the rules. Also the whole point of me traveling with milk is that I’ve been away and I have to bring it back. They don’t understand what I’m saying.
Tack #3: “What is pumping? What do you mean when you say this is from pumping?” So I explain the basic principles of what “pumping” is. Keep in mind that this is in full on public view of the airport. Luckily once you’re a mom, you cease to be squeamish about this stuff. However, if you’re an airport security male worker, you are squeamish.
Tack #4: “You’re not allowed to travel with breast milk unless you have a note from the doctor explaining why your child can only drink breast milk.” What? Now I definitely know they’re making stuff up. I ask to see the rules and am refused. I ask how I can possibly know what rules they’re applying. They say I can look them up at home on the web (which I have and have posted above for your convenience). I ask to speak to a manager. Again denied. They’re full speed ahead on a power trip now.
Tack #5: “If you really cared that much about feeding your baby, then you would just go to the pharmacist and buy some formula”. WHAT???? Cue smoke coming out of my ears. I ask if he just told me how I should feed my child and he says “Well I’m advising you because you don’t seem to know your options. You don’t have to use that when you could just buy it so why would you travel with it? This is not a necessity so you can’t have it.”
And with that, all the milk was taken away. I didn’t let them see me, but this was some spilt milk that I felt justified in crying over.
But on a brighter note, don’t forget to cast your votes – and if you think this whole Heathrow is as crazy as I do, spread the word. I’ll keep everyone posted on how complaining through official channels goes!
Updated: September 14, 2011
Please note that there have been lots of updates as a result of this posting – to all of those that commented and sent in notes of support, thank you! And know that your efforts not only meant a lot to me, but helped to move the needle in terms of making a difference in the way that Heathrow Airport approaches the needs of moms and families. We’ve still a ways to go, but the Airport has been serious about their apology and about their effort. For the full series of posts on this topic, please see:
Crying over Spilt Milk, update
Crying over Spilt Milk – The Response Part I
Crying over Spilt Milk – The Response Part II
A little less crying over spilt milk – Heathrow Steps Up…
top image via KidHaven.